The Art of Elysium gala not only featured fine food and entertainment, but also a fashion show, interactive performance art, live theater pieces, and film. The categories of “The Arts” are going through an evolution. The intersection between fashion, music, fine art, performance art, and theater is greater, while the lines distinguishing them are becoming more and more blurred. This past Saturday, January 10, 2015 the eighth annual gala, at Hangar 8, was specially curated by Marina Abramovic, the celebrated performance artist. The theme was “Heaven,” and was curated based on Abramovic’s concept of heaven as a state of consciousness where light and dark meet. She collaborated with Ennio Capasa, the creative director of Costume National, for six months before the event to present a preview of Costume National’s designs as well as to create a more interactive experience for guests.
Founded in 1997, The Art of Elysium is a non-profit organization which brings creatives (including plenty of Hollywood types) together to work on artistic projects to support children’s hospitals. Using artistic collaboration as their focal point, the organization wants to infuse the sometimes sterile hospital environment with creative energy and hope.
Abramovic and Capasa first met through Costume National fan Willem Dafoe, and since meeting, had been eager to work together. Abramovic’s usual domain within the arts is with “immaterial” or “long durational” works, performance pieces such as her “The Artist is Present” series at the MoMA, where she sat facing another chair and welcomed visitors to sit opposite her for however long they wanted. Clothes are not her usual focus. In terms of her own style, she can usually be seen in all-black ensembles, or occasionally all-red. An earlier piece performed with her partner, Ulay, where they stood naked, facing each other inside a doorway, featured no fashion items whatsoever.
Abramovic treated the whole night as a performance piece: entertainment as art. She said: “There are so many ways of entertaining, [but] I am proposing in my way as an artist the possibility of entertaining that’s never been used before.” Guests were brought into a space filled with beds which they could lay on to view the night’s entertainment, which included a surprise performance by Moby, music by Elijah Wood, a short 3-D film by Abramovic: Evolution (Megaplex), a video installation by Marco Brambilla, and an exclusive preview of Costume National’s Pre-Fall lineup. Besides being able to see the pieces on models, guests could see how they would look at, say, a gala. James Franco, Shepard Fairey, Kirsten Dunst, Cameron Silver, and Eva Mendes, who were all part of the host committee, as well as guests Johnny Depp, Joaquin Phoenix, Anna Kendrick, and Jena Malone, were all outfitted in Costume National pieces.
For Abramovic, the collaboration made a lot of sense, not only because she is a fan of Capasa’s, but also because she feels their art is more similar than it might seem. “The genius of his aesthetic resides in his deep understanding of human forms and the flow of energy that fuels the creative process. Ennio and I do different things, but somehow we manage to connect with people in the same way,” she says.